Sunday, 5 September 2010

Laser Worlds 2010: Black flags cast a long shadow after first Laser finals day

Start at the Laser Worlds 2010. Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

by Andi Robertson

Tom Slingsby may have emerged from an emotionally bruising first pair of high octane Finals races at the Laser World Championships off Hayling Island, with his overall lead all but intact, but the world title winner from 2007 and 2008 is left with no further margin for error after he was caught out as one of the many black flag transgressors at the first start of day.

But almost incredibly, Australian Slingsby was in good company when, sin-binned for being over the line during a previous start attempt, he then had to sit out the first finals contest alongside both of his main rivals. Defending champion Paul Goodison as well as New Zealand’s Michael Bullot had both also fallen foul of the starters’ swingeing penalty.

With nearly one knot of positive current pushing the fleets up to the line, and all of the urgency and pressure inherent to the first high-stakes world championships finals races, there were nearly 20 black flag disqualifications issued across the Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets over the first race, 39 in total from the day.

In fact it was Slingsby who then kept his nerve best on the second start, pushing through to a useful eighth place finish, whilst the current champion, Skandia Team GBR’s Goodison could only make 17th after a jittery second start and choosing prudently to take a penalty turn for an incident on the final beat of the second race.

But the Olympic gold medallist’s frustration was evident when he came ashore, dropping from second to fifth overall.

Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

The Australian leader may only have shed one of the 14 points lead he had this morning when he went afloat, but he will be walking the high wire from here, having now spent his Finals discard and also having a weighty 29th in reserve.

Britain’s Nick Thompson, third at last year’s worlds, upped his game on cue, sailing intelligently to earn a fourth and second to move up from seventh to lie third, tied on points with New Zealand’s Andrew Maloney.

Thompson’s increased impetus, he confirmed, was his frustration to date at his lacklustre first beats so far, but the Skandia Team GBR sailor has now worked his way into a very strong position with only one big discard, 25th, in a line-up of solid top 10 finishes.

As Italy’s Beijing silver medallist Diego Romero sailed to the best tally for the day in Gold Fleet with a first and third, it was a less satisfactory for the promising Kiwi squad. Only Maloney was on the up, on the strength of his fifth in the second race but Michael Bullot’s BFD was followed by a 30th to slide from third to 10th.

Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

The Junior World Championships reached the end of their eight races qualifying phase with Italy’s Francesco Marri finishing with a flourish, two wins today leaving him ten points up ahead of Denmark’s Thorbjoern Schierurp. Britain’s Alex Mills-Barton promoted himself to third also winning both of his final qualifying heats today.

Laser Standard Senior Men’s Championship 2010
Hayling Island, UK
Standings after 8 qualifying, 2 finals races, inc 2 discards

1 T Slingsby (AUS) 1,8, (29), 3,1,1,5,1, (BFD), 8, 28pts
2 A Maloney (NZL) 2,(22),4,10,2,11,3,4,(20),5, 41pts
3 N Thompson (GBR) 2,3,(25),6,(9),7,9,8,4,2, 41pts
4 P Kontides (CYP) 4,3,(21),4,5,(27),1,1,10,15, 43pts
5 P Goodison (GBR) 3,1,9,4,3,7,(15),7,(BFD),17, 51pts
6 T Stipanovi (CRO) (19),14,(15),4,1,8,2,11,3,13,56
7 J-P Bernaz (FRA) (33),2,14,12,5,1,(19),3,15,6,58pts
8 J Junior (NZL) 3,(22),1,2,7,5,8,(29),12,21,59pts
9 A Murdoch (NZL) 6,4,11,2,8,(22),9,1,(24),24,65pts
10 M Bullot (NZL) 1,2,5,13,9,3,3,(23), (BFD),30, 66pts

Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

Andrew Maloney (NZL): “First race I started at the pin end, sent it out to the left side of the course. I tacked a bit too early and missed the big shift coming back across and so rounded about middle of the fleet, maybe 30th then had a good first downwind, caught up a bit on the second beat and finished 20th. Second race I started well at the boat end of the line, tacked off early, got a nice right hand shift on the right of the course and then just pretty much covered the fleet, had some good downwind speed and sort of just sailed the shifts.
“There was a bit more breeze and a bit bigger waves. Every race is different but it has been pretty good with the wind from the same quadrant.
"The first race with the black flag up I decided I’d start up near the boat to be sure. I could see that there were a lot of guys down at the pin end of the line were over under the black flag. That meant that on the next start the pin opened up nicely and I got a good start down the pin anyway.
“I am pretty happy with my position but there are still a lot of races to go, but not getting a black flag or a drop on the first day of Finals today is pretty good.”

Tom Slingsby (AUS): “The top three boats got black flagged in the first race and that basically opens up the game to anyone who sails well in this finals series can walk away with the win. I knew our group was close at the start but the guy underneath me kept pushing and I realised we were going to be close and sort of tried to get out of there, but I got picked up and somehow the guy who was below me and a boat length and a half ahead did not get picked up didn’t get done. It was a bit frustrating there. I was picked out.
"The current was pushing us over the line and there was quite a biased start line. When you get a gold fleet everyone picks up on any little bias and really pushes the line and has a good transit up on the line.
"In the second race I felt was going quick through the water but felt I did not get many breaks with everyone tacking on me when I could. I feel like I have a bit of a bulls-eye on my back now. I did not have much clear air but the lanes I had I felt I sailed pretty well.”

Paul Goodison (GBR): “It was a bit of a frustrating day. The race committee looked to be struggling to set a start line, with quite a lot port bias after a couple of recalls. Most of the fleet were over but I was one that was caught. Probably fifty percent of the fleet were over. I’m a bit frustrated by that. The current had swung and it was taking everybody over the line, it was hard with so much bias to stay behind it almost.
"The second race I was a bit hesitant, but I got up to about 20th at the windward mark and then get involved with a French guy on the second beat. I tacked reasonably close when I tacked beneath him and he just pulled his bow down to make sure we touched, it was probably 50:50 but when you have spent your discard in the first race then there is not much you can.
"I feel like I let myself down a bit in the first race, getting over, but I was one of the ones who were picked out. I am bit down with that and in the second race was a bit hesitant and did not get the most out of it.
"I think I have to go home, have a good dinner and go to bed and not think about and come back afresh. But it will be pretty hard from here on in, but I’ll just keep pushing.”

Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

Nick Thompson (GBR): “The first race we had 12-14kts and with a couple of general recalls which ended up with a few of the good guys being over, which gave me a little opportunity. After I saw that I thought ‘just don’t be over’, and from there it was just trying to get around the windward mark in a half decent position, because I have been struggling to do that all week. I rounded 10 in the first race, I went middle right and lost a bit after good start, stayed around 10th and then passed a load of guys on the last run, so that was really good having got really in the groove downwind. Second race I started off the pin and wanted to protect the left and managed to do that and rounded the windward mark in fourth, passed a couple of guys.
"I was pumped up this morning especially because so far I felt I had not rounded the windward mark in a decent position after the first day, so I was just trying to have a good couple of first beats and make it easier for myself."

Laser Worlds 2010